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2019 : Crime and Criminals in the Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Anglo-American World

Société d’études anglo-américaines des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, Annual conference (Paris 18-19 January 2019) ‒ Proposals can also be sent in without attending the conference

Confirmed keynote speaker: Professor Trevor Burnard (University of Melbourne)

We are grown old; I am come back to England, being almost seventy years of age, husband sixty-eight, having performed much more than the limited terms of my transportation […], and he is come over to England also, where we resolve to spend the remainder of our years in sincere penitence for the wicked lives we have lived. (Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders, 1722)

Returning from exile as a convict in Virginia, Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders embodies the mythical figure of the English criminals deported in the colonies, who were made popular by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century literature and the press. Archives have given access to criminals’ profiles, relationships and networks, enabling historians to draw a more accurate picture of their lives and activities that were distorted and refashioned in drama, such as John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (1728), featuring one of the leading figures of the underworld, Jonathan Wild, in sensational novels (e.g, Captain Alexander Smith’s History of the Lives of the Most Noted Highway-men, Foot-pads, House-Breakers, Shoplifters and Cheats, 1714) or in some reports by journalists who had connections with the underworld. Historians have also studied the deportation of English, Scottish and Irish convicts in the colonies (G. Morgan & P. Rushton (Eighteenth-Century Criminal Transportation, Palgrave, Macmillan, 2003, Gwenda Morgan & Peter Rushton, Banishment in the Early Atlantic World. Convicts, Rebells and Slaves, Bloomsbury, 2013, Elodie Peyrol-Kleiber (Les premiers irlandais du Nouveau Monde: une migration atlantique (1618-1705), 2016), Roger Ekirch (Bound for America. The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718-1775, 1987).

At the intersection of social, legal history, colonial studies, literature and visual culture, this international conference seeks to re-assess the mythical and imaginary constructions of the criminal figures in literature (e.g the 17th century genre of the murder plays, 18th century novels) the press, the visual arts, travel narratives/accounts or trial reports. Archives also prove to be an invaluable source of information to study criminal activities and the complex structures of the English legal systems and those implemented in the colonies.

Among the great variety of possible topics, participants may like to consider:

  • the legal relation between England and its colonies. How were convicts and slaves treated in these new territories over the period? Are narratives or accounts always reliable sources?

  • Witches are recurrently portrayed in varied media of the time, both literature and the press. What was the reality of these women’s imagined or supposedly illegal practices?

  • Is there any variation in the way female and male criminals were portrayed in those days? May the press and literature, and even some contemporary historians, have distorted the representation of female criminals?

  • The figure of the pirates, travelling between different worlds and continents, remain highly ambiguous Anglo-American heroes and/or anti-heroes.

  • The geography of crime. Beyond the capital of crime that used to be in London, was there any criminal network in the rest of Britain and in the English colonies, maybe crossing the borders with other European nations such as France, Portugal and Spain? Did literature or the press account for this geography of crime?

  • What is the impact of new technologies on recent studies devoted to crime in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries?

We also welcome contributions on other criminals such as thieves, prostitutes, murderers or any other criminal figures and/or any other aspect of this subject.

Conference and Journal Section coordinators: Dr. Armelle Sabatier (Paris 2, Law and Humanities/CERSA UMR7106) & Prof. Bertrand Van Ruymbeke (Paris 8, TransCrit, IUF)

Potential authors not speaking at the conference are invited to submit a title and a 300-word abstract along with a brief bio-bibliography to seaa2019@gmail.com and rseaa@1718.fr by February 28th, 2019. Deadline for submissions of article proposals is May 31st, 2019.

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